Sunday, 16 Jun, 2024


The Indian-American 'helping' Elon Musk run Twitter

Technology Desk |
Update: 2022-11-08 13:27:39
The Indian-American 'helping' Elon Musk run Twitter

Twitter's new owner Elon Musk has whipped up a storm after he sacked thousands of employees last week.

The controversial way the firings happened - with many employees discovering they had been laid off when they were shut out of their emails - sparked anger, frustration and even lawsuits against Mr Musk.

Among those sacked were some of the firm's most senior executives.

In their place, Mr Musk has reportedly put together a small team of his own - of friends and confidantes - and entrusted them with the job of implementing his vision for Twitter.

They appear to include Sriram Krishnan, an Indian-origin software engineer and former Twitter executive who left the company last year.

Last week, Mr Krishnan, who now works at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz or a16z, tweeted that he was "helping out Mr Musk temporarily".

Since then, his name has been trending in India, where many are bitter about the unceremonious sacking of former CEO Parag Agrawal and other Indian-origin executives.

It is not immediately clear in what capacity Mr Krishnan will be joining Twitter - the BBC contacted him for comment, but he said he "can't help right now with anything Twitter-related".

It's also hard to say how close his association with Mr Musk is at this point, though reports have repeatedly described him as a part of his "inner circle".

In a 2021 interview with Marina Mogilko, who runs a YouTube channel called Silicon Valley Girl, Mr Krishnan said he and his wife Aarthi Ramamurthy first got to know Mr Musk when he helped with "something Twitter-related" a few years ago and that they "built a relationship through that".

The couple also met Mr Musk during a private tour of SpaceX's headquarters in California "several years ago", according to The New York Times.

But the most prominent exchange between them came in February 2021 when Mr Musk appeared in a talk show the couple hosted on Clubhouse.

Social media burst out with incredulity - the world's richest man had just showed up on an invite-only app for an exclusive - and the show began to trend heavily.

Within minutes, the chatroom quickly hit the Clubhouse limit of 5,000 concurrent listeners as Mr Musk spoke about life on Mars, the possibility of aliens and about how one of his companies had wired up a monkey's brain to "play video games with his mind".

The Good Time Show, which has since moved to other platforms, continues to be hugely popular in the US.

The podcast offers a glimpse into the overlapping worlds of internet culture, politics and the latest developments in Silicon Valley, where Mr Krishnan and Ms Ramamurthy are well-known figures.

Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of a16z, says that Mr Krishnan is "perhaps the only person in the world to have served in senior product positions in the three biggest social platforms of our time", according to the company website. In addition to Twitter, the 37-year-old worked at Microsoft, Yahoo, Snap and Facebook in the past.

Ms Ramamurthy, meanwhile, worked at Facebook and Netflix before starting two of her own companies.

Together, they have been described as a well-connected "tech power couple".

Mr Krishnan was born in the southern Indian city of Chennai in what he described as a "very traditional" middle-income household.

His life changed when he convinced his father to buy him a computer - a luxury in the late 1990s.

"It cost about 60,000-70,000 rupees [$730-840; £638-744], a large part of my father's pay check," he told Ms Mogilko in the 2021 interview. "I told him I would use it for my studies."

But he still did not have internet because a dial-up connection was expensive and unaffordable.

So he would buy coding books instead to teach himself the basics, and practise every night.

Mr Krishnan met Ms Ramamurthy online in 2002 while studying engineering at Anna University in Chennai. By then, he was already on the path to becoming a software engineer. So was Ms Ramamurthy, a student in the same college.

"A mutual friend wanted to start a coding project, so he decided to get the two nerdiest people he knew - me and Aarthi - on board," he told Ms Mogilko.

The collaboration did not survive, but his and Ms Ramamurthy's relationship did. The couple continued to chat on Yahoo messenger for a year until they finally met in person.

In the months to come, the internet continued to be the foundation of their relationship as they "idealised the myth of Silicon Valley" as the future of American endeavour, and dreamed of being there someday.

"One of our first dates was watching bit-torrent copy of a 1999 Silicon Valley film in my tiny room," Mr Krishnan said in the interview.

Their big break came a few months later when one of Mr Krishnan's blog posts on Microsoft was noticed by a company executive, who then hired the couple in 2005.

In 2007, Mr Krishnan moved to the US and Ms Ramamurthy joined him six months later.

Mr Krishnan has said in the past that it took them a while to get used to living there, but work continued to be their solace.

After working at Microsoft, the couple moved on to other big tech companies. They got American citizenship in 2017, a moment Mr Krishnan has described in interviews as being on a par with their wedding and the birth of their first daughter.

Sriram Krishnan and Aarthi Ramamurthy run a popular podcast series

Last December, they started their career as podcasters - a decision born out of pandemic-fuelled boredom, Mr Krishnan has explained in the past.

So, they decided to get on to Clubhouse, which became popular during the pandemic, to have conversations about the tech space.

The interviews are woven with analysis and candid repartee with experts, including the likes of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and the late fashion designer Virgil Aboh.

Twitter connection

While little is known about Mr Krishnan's ties with Mr Musk, he has been an open admirer of the billionaire in the past, describing him as an "inspirational person and an iconic founder".

He has also openly supported Mr Musk's vision for Twitter and criticised practices such as de-platforming on the microblogging website.

"Having extrajudicial internet cops that lead to enforcement on your platform is the road to dystopian authoritarianism," he wrote on Twitter last month.

There's speculation that Mr Musk might have got Mr Krishnan - a cryptocurrency expert - on board to integrate his doge bitcoin with Twitter.

Whether Mr Krishnan will become the next "Technoking" (Mr Musk's alternative title for CEO) of Twitter or not, interesting times lie ahead for the social platform - and Mr Krishnan could be right in the middle of it.

Source: BBC

BDST: 1327 HRS, NOV 08, 2022

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